Friday Finds #144

Happy holiday weekend everyone! It’s our last official “hurrah” for Summer here in the states. Make the most of it and resist the urge to WORK on anything related to your daily job!



This past week I experienced a first: calendar spam! Here’s a great link a fellow teacher sent my way after I shared my woes on Facebook.

How to Stop the Calendar Invite Spam



Halloween Piano Music for Beginners



How Habits Can Help Us Pray



7 Surprising Things You Can Do with Mayonnaise

Guess what #4 is?

Clean your piano keys. Really? Has anyone seriously ever tried that. I’m not sure I would even be willing to try.



We finally got our oven hooked up and after six months of a small convection oven. The first thing I was excited to bake was cookies!

I’ve always wanted to do taste test comparisons where I make 2 or 3 versions of one type of recipe then decide which version I like the best. My first one was peanut butter cookies.

I made three recipes I had in my files I’ve loved over the past years. Two were still keepers but I was finally able to let go of this one!

5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – Pinch of Yum

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies – Smitten Kitchen



I’ve been catching up on podcasts lately including the Muscialit Now Podcast. I loved these three, all of which I listened to while pulling weeds for three hours around our barn. LOL.

Episode 158: How to Truly Listen with Evelyn Glennie

Episode 156: Find and Make Peace with Your Voice, with Nikki Loney

Episode 152: Making Music Learning a Picnic, with Ruth Power (Piano Picnic)

Do you have a favorite episode of the Musicality Now podcast?


Friday Finds #143

I’m sorry but I just HAVE to lead this week’s finds with this because I’m SOOO excited I finally finished the project! 🙂

A shop is now finally open here on Piano Pantry! If you haven’t already, jump over and have a look at all the Music Lab materials that are posted. There’s lots of good stuff!

Can you hear me smiling?



Everyone’s been going a little crazy over this article on Facebook and for good reason…

Teaching is Relentless; Be Extra



How Habits Can Help Us Pray



A topic that we don’t always think to talk about in our industry but that is so important: Being a Professional – Safeguarding & Child Protection.



These are looking pretty yummy although I’ll admit I haven’t made them yet so I can’t give my full blessing…

Easy 5-ingredient Protein Bars (Peanut Butter Chocolate!)



Great takeaway, Seth Godin – The anatomy of annoying. 



Susan Paradis has a creative activity for beginners learning keyboard topography – a keyboard puzzle!



A thorough review of evenly-leveled piano duets by Nicola Canton.



Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab

This post highlights a few of my go-to iPad apps for Music Lab time that my students enjoy: Rhythm Cat HD, Rhythm Lab, and Staff Wars.


Rhythm Cat HD

Rhythm Cat HD is a rhythm app available on iOS. If you would like to try it out, check out the free version, Rhythm Cat Lite HD.

The paid version, Rhythm Cat HD (currently $4.99), currently includes six stages, each with ten levels. If you are looking to use this as a lab for your students, then you will need the full paid version.

Please note that this app does not have a way for the student to hear the rhythm in playback. They tap the rhythm along to an accompaniment track. Often the accompaniment does not include the rhythm in any way, so students must have a solid sense of beat. If they miss just one note, they will receive two, not three stars.

Stages and levels can only be unlocked by successful completion. So, you cannot assign stage 4 to a student until someone has successfully mastered and unlocked stages 1, 2, and 3.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

Students cannot “sign-in” to this app to track their progress, so I like to assign stages and track progress by having them fill out this music lab sheet.

It is recommended not to assign a stage until the student is proficient at the rhythms included.

For example, even though level one only uses whole, half, and quarter notes, some of the exercises must be executed at fast tempos.

This download includes two pages covering all six stages and ten levels.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)

Continue reading

Two High-Quality iPad Theory Apps

This post highlights two of my current favorite apps that teach music theory (at various levels). I’m sure there will be more to come in the future but for now, let’s have a look at the Waay app and The Royal Conservatory’s Theory apps.



Waay is an app available on iOS that teaches music theory via two courses: melodies (free), and chords ($4.99). Each course is comprised of 8 videos and interactive practice exercises. Even more specifically, the app states that its intention is to teach “songwriting.”

My recommendation is that this app is best suited for high school or adult students. While the app states that it is great for beginners, the videos and concepts move very, very quickly. Students will do best if they’re already familiar with the concepts presented in the app.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

This app does not allow students to log in to track progress, so I have students use a music lab sheet.

The way the courses are set up, it works well to assign an entire course rather than individual videos and exercises. To assign a course, simply place a checkmark in the box next to “assigned.”

This download is two pages long – one page for each course.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop).

Continue reading

Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

For years, I’ve seen teachers in Facebook groups asking for some kind of assignment sheet to accompany Piano Explorer Magazine published by The Instrumentalist.

Well, today I am posting my version as part of the Music Lab Series on Piano Pantry!


What’s Piano Explorer Magazine?

Published once a month, this fun student-focused magazine covers topics such as composers, technique, practicing, instruments, and more. There are also puzzles, quizzes, student compositions, and the 100-day Practice Challenge!

At the time of this post, teachers can purchase a single subscription for the studio ($12), or a group subscription of five or more copies ($6 each). (Keep in mind that a group subscription would be mailed to one address.)

If teachers wanted to have students receive a copy of the magazine in the mail at home, you would have to purchase multiple individual subscriptions and set them up to mail to separate addresses. Kids get “real” mail so infrequently, it could be a fun addition to your studio for students to receive these!

For the purposes of using this as a music lab, it would be possible to use only one copy of the magazine for all students at your studio. That being said, the benefit to each student having their own copy is not only that they could take it home after completing the lab, but that they could actually complete the written puzzles and/or activities in the magazine.  (If students have their own copy of the magazine, they could complete it as an assignment at home as well!)

Continue reading

More Than 100 Videos for Your Music Lab

For years, I’ve been collecting videos from all over the internet for my student’s music lab time.

This has resulted in two major sets of videos:

Music Theory Videos

Fun Music Videos

Access to both of these video series is FREE for Piano Pantry readers!


Music Theory Videos

The Music Theory Videos series is a culmination of the best videos I’ve found online that teach music theory concepts.

I wasn’t looking to use these videos as a way to teach concepts. That should, of course, be done in the lesson. It was nice, however, to use them as a way to reinforce what we have already learned. 

Comprised of 48 videos, they have been divided into four sets based on a rough/general order in which concepts are introduced in most piano methods. The order may not line up exactly, but you can simply assign videos based on what the student has already been taught in their lesson time.

From my own experience, I find it doesn’t work well to assign just one video at a time. Switching between multiple lab assignments/programs during the lab is not ideal.

It’s much easier to save up until they can spend an entire lab time on just the music theory video assignments. Thus, they might only do this lab every six months as they progress through new concepts.

Please know that the list of videos is in no way exhaustive. That is, there may not necessarily be a video available for every music theory concept students learn in music lessons.

All videos can be found here.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

Since students weren’t doing this lab on a weekly basis, I needed a way to track which videos they had watched. Thus, was born the corresponding music lab sheet.

The lab sheet includes directions to the student, a place for teachers to assign individuals for students to watch, the video name, who it is from, its length (so they know if they have enough time during their lab to complete it), and a space for the student to check that they watched it.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)



Fun Music Videos

When I started including music lab time in my student’s weekly lesson experience, one thing I found is that while there are a lot of apps and programs out there, sometimes you simply run out of things for them to do!

There were two main reasons I found this happening on occasion.

The first was simply because, when you have 30-minute lab time, students can get through quite a bit and thus they move through their assignments quickly.

The second reason was more specifically with younger students. There are only so many lab assignments you can give when they are beginners. Not only are they limited in the musical concepts they can play games for, but any assignment with too much reading and writing is just too difficult for kindergarten, first, and even second graders to do on their own.

Thus, was born the Fun Music Videos lab series.

Comprised of more than 60 videos, the series is organized into eight “theme” sets: 

  1. Classical Music Fun
  2. Inspirational
  3. Musical Humor
  4. Unique Instruments
  5. Playing with Popular Tunes 1
  6. Playing with Popular Tunes 2
  7. Music History
  8. The Evolution of the Piano

The great part is that I’ve made all of these videos available to you for FREE!

You could even use these videos for a little fun way to end a group class or even play one to start a group class as students are entering!


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

My students were enjoying these videos a lot, but I needed a way to track which ones they had watched. I wasn’t necessarily assigning the lab week after week until they finished the entire lab, I was only assigning it every once in a while and using it as a “filler”.

Thus, was born the corresponding music lab sheet.

The goal was to keep it simple.

Yes, I was using it as a “filler” lab assignment, but I also didn’t want it to just feel like “busy work”. Not only that, but it had to be something I could assign to students of all ages – especially younger students. As I stated earlier, any assignment with too much reading and writing is just too difficult for kindergarten, first, and even second graders to do on their own.

Thus, the lab sheet includes directions to the student, the “set” name, the video name, the length of the video (so they know if they have enough time during their lab to complete it), and areas to rate the video and openly reflect/comment on their thoughts.

While I would love for it to include more background information and reflection questions (maybe someday I’ll create a more in-depth version for older students), my main goal was an easy lab that students of any age could use and enjoy.

Be aware that students have been known to continually go back and watch some of their favorite videos several times when they’re supposed to be watching new videos. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)



If you’re curious for even more details on how I run my music labs, I’ve created a 15-page eBook that is chock full of all kinds of “pro tips.”

We’ll talk about how I schedule, set-up, and organize labs. (You all know “organizing” is my favorite topic! 🙂 )

Laid out in an easy to read and understand format, this book will answer all your questions regarding music lab time!


Give Me More!

Would you like to learn more in-depth details on the programs that I have created labs for?

Check out these posts:

1) My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

2) Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

3) Two High-Quality iPad Theory Apps

4) Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab


Ready to Purchase?

Do you just want to just straight to getting your product?

Shop the entire Music Lab Series now!


My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

In the post Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History, I mentioned that when I first started to include music lab time in my piano studio,  I didn’t have an iPad so I started with computer-based programs such as Music Ace MaestroAlfred’s Interactive Musician, and Essentials of Music Theory, along with a subscription to the online Music Learning Community.

Of those programs, there’s only one that I’m currently still using and that’s Essentials of Music Theory published by Alfred. You can purchase it on their website or on Amazon.

Because it is an older program, you don’t download it directly from the internet, you have to purchase the CD-ROM and upload it to your computer. While this feels antiquated, I still find the program a valuable addition to my music labs as it is one of the most complete and comprehensive theory lesson programs out there.

The program comes in either a Student Version (single use), Educator Version (multiple students on one device), or Network Version (multiple computers).

There are 3 Volumes available that could be purchased separately or as one program called Essentials of Music Theory Complete.

If you are using the program in an independent studio setting for music lab time, then you will need to purchase the Educator Version – Complete. While it is one of the more expensive music theory programs to include in a music lab, it’s also one of the most thorough and comprehensive.

The program includes 18 units. Each of those units comprises four to five lessons, ear training, and a review test for a total of 75 lessons within the 18 units. For a detailed list of what’s included in each unit/lesson, visit this link.

Continue reading

Shop is Open – Check Out the New Music Lab Series!

Drumroll, please…

After two years and five months of this blog, Piano Pantry now has a SHOP! (I’ve been waiting so long to say that!!)

You can find it in the top menu bar.

While this is quite an exciting announcement, there’s an even better one…

What’s the first product, you ask?

It’s a Music Lab Series!



For a brief history of music labs and how I came to where I am today, read “Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History”.

As I mention in that post, when I first started including a music lab eight years ago, there was really only one “curriculum” product out there. It just wasn’t working for me, so I began creating my own music lab assignment sheets.

Only one other music lab curriculum/program has emerged since that time (that I know of), but I’ve continued to stick with my lab own series since it was working well for me.  Over the past seven years, it has morphed and changed quite a bit as I’m sure it will continue to do.

Continue reading

Friday Finds #142

Oh my goodness, here it is 10:26pm and I suddenly realized it’s Friday! I was so caught up in today’s task of priming six doors and their trim in our basement that it completely slipped my mind!

Or…maybe it’s the fact that I’m not in a normal routine…

Or…maybe it’s that I’m turning 39 in two weeks and things like that just start to happen as you get older. I HAVE been noticing changes since I hit my late 30’s… (I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂 )


The photo you see here is at Joy Morin’s Retreat at Piano Manor that was held last week. As always, it was a lot of fun feeding and getting to know all these beautiful ladies.

Everyone is always asking for the recipes I use, so I put a list together for attendees. I thought you might also enjoy getting the links as well so let’s kick off this week’s finds with some winning recipes!



This isn’t a list of everything we ate, but just those that I used a recipe for. 🙂

Honey Vanilla Yogurt

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Whole 30 Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Mexican Restaurant-Style Cauliflower Rice

Herbal Iced Tea

Easy Fruit Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Milk Street’s Israeli Hummus

Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies [Chickpea Cookies-Gluten Free]

5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies [These were from the 2018 Retreat. Several of the ladies who were there last year remembered these and were asking for the recipe. 🙂 ]


If you’d like to read more about the retreat, here is Joy’s recap post.



I really enjoyed reading this Day in the Life” photo journal post from an Ex-Pat living in Barcelona. At the end of the post she talks about upgrading her Kindle Paperwhite to the “All-New Kindle.

Does anyone have this and recommend the upgrade?



I need your vote…I try to avoid being a “gadget” person, but this Avocado Tool looks really cool. What do you think? Should I try it?

Do you happen to have one? If so, let me know what you think!



Drew Barrymore Just Launched the Cutest Food-Themed Art Prints for Kids (and We Secretly Want Them for Ourselves)



Did you see my announcement from earlier this week?

The goal is to open shop THIS WEEK. We’re also painting the new studio, getting carpet, and moving the studio.

So…if you could do me a BIG favor and send some extra energy my way so I can wrap this project up and get you some Music Lab materials, I appreciate it!


Talk soon! ~Amy


Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History

(and a big announcement!)

Do you remember when you first started hearing about the idea of including music labs as part of private music instruction in the independent studio? Is the idea something you’ve always been aware of or do you recall a certain point in time when you noticed the idea emerging?

Depending on how long you’ve been teaching, I’m sure each of us will have a different answer to this question.

From my own recollection, my piano lessons growing up were fairly traditional. When I first started teaching piano right out of high school (ca. 1998-2001; I can’t remember what year I took my first student! 🙁 ), I had never heard of music labs.

Since my first degree and career was in choral education, not piano pedagogy, I’m not aware of the exact point in history when music labs became popular to include in the independent music studio. I recall being vaguely aware that it was a “thing” around 2005.

Continue reading